HC Deb 12 March 1987 vol 112 cc453-6
11. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions have taken place with the newly elected Government of the Irish Republic regarding the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr. Tom King

There have not yet been any discussions with the new Irish Government, but we look forward to full co-operation with them in operating the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr. Winnick

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was not apparently an issue in the recent Irish elections, but would it not be true to say from surveys and various opinion polls that that agreement has as much broadly based support in the Irish Republic as it certainly has in the United Kingdom? Bearing in mind that the Provisional Sinn Fein received less than 2 per cent. of the vote in the Irish election, where is its mandate, can I ask, as I asked the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams) and his colleagues in Northern Ireland directly in 1983, for the continuing campaign of killings and terrorism by the Provisional IRA? How can that organisation say that it is acting in the traditions of 1798 and 1916 with a mandate from the Irish people?

Mr. King

I rarely agree with what the hon. Gentleman says in the House, but I entirely endorse and applaud what he has just said. Whatever views and judgments one draws from the outcome of the election in the Republic, the one absolutely clear conclusion to be drawn from the humiliating derisory vote for Sinn Fein is that it represents nobody in what it claims to be its attempt to represent some great Irish aspiration. That development was most encouraging and it completely removes any conceivable justification, were there ever to be one, for its intolerable campaign of violence in the north.

Mr. Stanbrook

What specific benefits does my right hon. Friend claim have accrued to Northern Ireland since the conclusion of the Anglo-Irish Agreement?

Mr. King

There certainly have been benefits, as was shown in the by-elections, for a start. Part of the concern of the Anglo-Irish Agreement is not merely that the majority, but the minority, should feel that their traditions and aspirations are respected. Anybody, above all Unionists, who cares about Northern Ireland must be concerned about the attitude of the minority, not just that of the majority. The most significant single factor was, perhaps, in the early stage, the significant switch of voting from Sinn Fein to the constitutional democratic parties.

Mr. Mason

Further to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I hope that the Secretary of State will discuss with the Taoiseach the fact that people in the north have now become wise to the Provisional Sinn Fein's bomb and bullet campaign? Will he also note that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams) is scurrying around Britain trying to rally support for his party? The Provisional Sinn Fein got a black eye in the southern Republican elections and I hope that the Secretary of State and the Taoiseach will now raise their profile politically and defeat the Provisional Sinn Fein still further.

Mr. King

I certainly would like to see that happen and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support. It is undoubtedly true that, as I said earlier, while the IRA may conduct its violence in the north, the violent damage that it does to the economy of the south is all too clear, and it is the godfather of the appalling unemployment level through the island of Ireland.

Mr. Cormack

Before, quite properly, seeking to establish relations with the new Government, will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to thank Dr. FitzGerald for what he did during his period of leadership of his party and his country?

Mr. King

I think that the whole House will have noted the universal tributes that have been paid throughout the British press following the announcement, by Dr. FitzGerald, of his retirement from the leadership of Fine Gael. I would certainly like to put on record the admiration and respect of myself, my colleagues serving in the Northern Ireland Office, and indeed, the House for someone who has been an outstanding representative of this country.

Mr. Bell

In relation to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North, (Mr. Winnick), the response given by the Secretary of State, and given the rather peculiar attitude and outburst of some members of the Government Back Benches, can it be made clear that, at all times in the past and at all times in the future, a Labour Administration and a Labour Opposition condemn, totally and outrightly, the use of the ballot paper in the one hand and the Armalite in the other? This House associates itself absolutely and categorically with the total condemnation of Provisional Sinn Fein and states that the only route for those in Northern Ireland in the majority and minority communities is that of constitutional nationalism. That must be in the interests of all the people of the island of Ireland.

Mr. King

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way he has spoken with the authority of the Front Bench on behalf of his right hon. and hon. Friends. I believe that the firmness of the House in the rejection of violence and terrorism are reinforced by events, especially the derisory vote for Sinn Fein. That shows that we are absolutely right in our determination to stand against it.

13. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the working of the Anglo-Irish Agreement with specific reference to cross-border co-operation on security.

Mr. Scott

Progress has been made since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in developing further cross-border security co-operation. There has been increased contact at all levels between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Garda Siochana. The programme of work agreed by the two police forces is now being implemented.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

With regard to security matters and assessing the Anglo-Irish Agreement will not the Parliament of the United Kingdom greatly miss the counsel and border experience of the late Lord Brookeborough? Do we not salute and grieve with the family of the right hon. and noble Viscount?

Mr. Scott

I certainly echo those sentiments and pay tribute to the contribution that Lord Brookeborough made on behalf of his community in Northern Ireland, on behalf of Northern Ireland as a whole, and to the way that he enabled the voice of his beliefs to be heard in this Parliament.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is not the Anglo-Irish Agreement gravely jeopardised by the unanswered allegations of Wallace and Holroyd? Now that the Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, has said that he intends to carry out an inquiry into the allegations and, in particular, the alleged attempt to destabilise the Government of the Republic in the 1970s, surely the British Government should respond likewise. Surely Parliament is entitled to know whether Mr. Wallace and Mr. Holroyd are lying or whether they are telling the truth?

Mr. Scott

As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces said in a parliamentary answer the other day, there has been no evidence whatsoever advanced in support of the allegations made by Messrs. Holroyd and Wallace.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of the expression of appreciation to the outgoing Prime Minister, does he not agree with me that that man has stood out among his contemporary rivals as the only real statesman among them?

Mr. Scott

I will not get into that territory, but I certainly echo the compliments that my right hon. Friend paid to Dr. FitzGerald for the role that he has played in Ireland and in the European Community during his time as Taoiseach. Obviously, we look forward to working with whoever is Head of Government in the Irish Republic.